Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A tough break

In my last blog, I mentioned Ron Stallings from Team Lloyd Irvin getting his big break and stepping up on short notice to fight Uriah Hall at the UFC Fight Night card in Boston last weekend. Unfortunately, Stallings' night ended before it really had a chance to get started.

Stallings and Hall spent most of the first round feeling each other out, with Stallings landing a couple shots. Hall knocked Stallings to the mat and unleashed a barrage of punches, but Stallings survived the onslaught that might have finished other fighters. After Hall and Stallings were stood up, a stiff jab by Hall opened up a deep gash over Stallings' left eye. The referee halted the fight and after an inspection by the cageside doctor, the fight was waved off despite Stallings' protests.

"I didn't believe the cut would impair my vision at all," Stallings told me on Twitter after the fight. "The cut wasn't as bad in the fight as the photo that is being passed around. We took that photo after the doctor had put his fingers inside of the cut opening it to see what needed to be stitched. It wasn't that open during the fight."

It was Stallings' goal to turn the fight into a brawl anyway. "I wanted a bloody, Forrest Griffin vs Stephan Bonnar type of fight," he said.

Despite the early stoppage, Stallings was assured the UFC would give him another fight in the Octagon. Which I think is only fair. Stallings stepped up on only a few days notice to take a fight against a dangerous fighter like Hall, with proven knockout power. And when the UFC comes calling, you don't turn it down, whether it's on one-day notice or one year.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Enter the 'Choirboy'

Mixed martial arts is a funny thing. Some people who compete in it can become instant stars after one fight. All they need is one opportunity to show what they can do. For Maryland MMA fighter Ron "Choirboy" Stallings, that opportunity may come Sunday night at UFC's Fight Night card in Boston.

Stallings, who trains with Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs, agreed to step in on a week's notice to face Uriah Hall on Sunday night's card. Hall is a veteran of season 18 of "The Ultimate Fighter" and was known for highlight reel knockouts, particularly this one.

Stallings carries a record of 12-6 into his fight with Hall and has competed in multiple regional organizations and on Strikeforce's Challenger series. He is, however, coming off an unanimous decision loss for his fight on Sunday night. But when the UFC comes calling with an opportunity, it doesn't matter if you've won or lost. You take full advantage of it.

Multiple media outlets have mentioned Stallings stepping in to face Hall, including MMA Fighting and FOX Sports. I reached out to Stallings personally to see if he could contribute a few thoughts on his first UFC appearance. If I get a response, I'll post them to this blog.

UPDATE: Stallings shared some thoughts with me via Twitter though one of his teammates, who is handling his social media accounts.

"The experience has been great so far and the UFC has treated me very well," Stallings said. Stallings' coach, Master Lloyd Irvin, learned that Hall's previous opponent dropped out and contacted Sucker Punch Entertainment, who facilitated Stallings stepping in to face Hall.

"This opportunity is really a dream come true for me, my team and my family. I really look forward to fighting Sunday," Stallings said.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

'I never really liked talking things out'

Like some mixed martial artists, the fighting nature is born out of wanting to overcome hardship that they grew up with. A father working long hours in construction and bartending and a mother overcoming breast cancer but still dealing with health problems means Vince Mosca is sticking with his family.

Mosca still lives in the same house he grew up in in the Hamilton part of Baltimore. "Not because I'm afraid to 'branch out and be on my own,' but more because it's always been us," he told me in a recent email conversation. Mosca graduated from Perry Hall High School and worked a series of odd jobs, including waiting tables, retail "and any other stupid job you could imagine for someone my age," he said.

Mosca's love of MMA also started like many others started, by watching the sport's first true rivalry between Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz. "I was just drawn to it," Mosca said. "I wanted to be like those guys. I watched pro wrestling and boxing like most kids did when I was younger too, but it always interested me."

MMA also gave Mosca an outlet for his anger. "I sure was an angry-ass kid though," he said. "From when I was little, all throughout high school, I never really liked talking things out, or walking away. I always felt that if there was a problem or that if someone was messing with me, fight them. That's usually what I did."

Fortunately Mosca started channeling his anger in more healthy ways in MMA, which also provided him a rude awakening when he signed up for his first Muay Thai class when he was 15. "I realized that I totally sucked and had no business fighting a trained adult, and I totally fell in love with it," Mosca said.

Mosca is also a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and trains under fellow Maryland fighter Rob Sullivan, who I've also profiled. Mosca currently sports a record of 1-1, and is coming off a unanimous decision loss in Aug. 2014.

"There's nothing 'pretty' about my style," he said. "When I punch, I'm punching to kill you. When I kick, I'm trying to cut through you. I'm fast for my size and can string together combinations well. I think I'm a tough out for anyone, especially when the fight is standing."

But the road to MMA hasn't always been easy, and Mosca recognizes that he still has areas where he can improve, particularly on the ground. "I've picked up a lot of bad habits in my earlier training, especially on the ground," he said. "Every single day I'm making improvements though. It's a process and that's pretty much what the amateurs are for, but I know I haven't performed to even a fraction of what I know I'm capable of - yet."

Mosca trains at Baltimore BJJ with Sullivan and others, and Mosca credits Sullivan for setting him on the right path in MMA.

"Rob Sullivan has been great for me," Mosca said. "He gave me a lot of confidence early on, and has taken a genuine interest in my path and how I do things while handling his own fight career. He's figured out what works for me - striking and on the ground - and drilled it into my head until it's become second nature."

"We butt head sometimes, but I idolize his work ethic and outlook on things," he added. "It got rough over the summer due to lack of MMA training partners, but interest is picking back up and it's awesome to see. I couldn't ask for a better group of dudes to train with between there and my friends at Method MMA in Bel Air."

Mosca has set his goals high in MMA, from winning the World Kickboxing Association's North American Kickboxing Championship in March to avenging his loss and winning a title belt in MMA later this year.

"If all goes well, I'd like to turn pro this upcoming fall," Mosca said. "I've yet to fully commit and make this my life, but I will. I'm nowhere near where I want to be yet, but I know what I'm capable of."

"I'm 21 years old," he said. "I feel like I'd be wasting my time completely if my goal wasn't to be one of the top fighters in the world at some point, which I 100 percent believe is going to happen."